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Viennese German (Austro-Bavarian: Weanarisch, Weanerisch, German: Wienerisch) is the city dialect spoken in Vienna, the capital of Austria and is counted among the Bavarian dialects. Even in Lower Austria, the state surrounding the city, many of its expressions are not used, while farther to the west they are often not even understood.
At the beginning of the 20th century, one could differentiate between four Viennese dialects (named after the districts in which they were spoken): Favoritnerisch (Favoriten, 10. Bezirk), Meidlingerisch, (Meidling, 12. Bezirk), Ottakringerisch (Ottakring, 16. Bezirk), and Floridsdorferisch (Floridsdorf, 21. Bezirk). Today these labels are no longer applicable and one speaks of 'one' Viennese dialect with its usage varying as one moves further away from the city.
Besides the locational dialects of Old Vienna, there were also class-based dialects. For example, Schönbrunnerdeutsch, or German as spoken by the courtiers and attendants of the Habsburg Imperial Court at Schönbrunn Royal Palace, had a manner of speech that had an affected bored inflection combined with overenunciation. The nasal tonality was akin to German spoken with a French accent. While far less used today, educated Viennese are still familiar with this court dialect.
Viennese phonology only found in Viennese German:
- Monophthongization: Compared to Standard German and to other Bavarian dialects, diphthongs are often monophthongized, somewhat as some Southern US accents turn oil into o-ol.
- Standard German heiß – Bavarian hoaß – Viennese haaß [haːs]
- Standard German weiß – Viennese wääß [væːs]
- Standard German Haus – Viennese Håås [hɒːs]
- It is typical to lengthen vowels somewhat, often at the end of a sentence. For example: Heeaasd, i bin do ned bleeed, wooos waaasn ii, wea des woooa (Standard German Hörst du, ich bin doch nicht blöd, was weiß denn ich, wer das war).
- The "Meidlinger L": In the working class dialect, the pronunciation of the letter "l" reflects the Czech pronunciation. This is known as Meidlinger "L".
- Inserting vowels into consonant clusters (epenthesis): Likewise depending on the social class, every now and then a speaker may insert a vowel (near-Schwa) between two following consonants. This usually results in an additional syllable, which "intensifies" the word and usually has a negative feeling to it.
- Standard German Verschwinde! – Viennese Vaschwind! – intensified Vaschawind!
- Standard German Verbrecher! – Viennese Vabrecha! – intensified Vabarecha!
- Standard German abgebrannt – Viennese oobrennt – intensified oobarennt
- Standard German Geradeaus! – Viennese Groodaus! – intensified Garoodaus!
Other characteristics are found in Viennese German as in Bavarian dialects, as well:
- Consonant tenseness: Voiceless fortis consonants [p, t, k] become voiceless Lenis-consonants [b̥, d̥, ɡ̊]. The [k], however, usually remains fortis when it follows a vowel.
- Vocalizing of /l/ within a word after a vowel,
e.g. also → oeso [ˈɔe̯so], Soldat → Soedot [sɔe̯ˈdɔːt], fehlen → föhn [fœːn], Kälte → Köödn [ˈkøːd̥n̩]
- Vocalizing of /l/ at the end of a word, after a vowel,
e.g. schnell → schnöö [ʃnœː], viel → vüü [fʏː]
- Unrounding front vowels after coronal consonants,
e.g. Glück [ˈɡlʏk] → Glick [ˈɡlɪk], schön [ˈʃøːn] → schee [ˈʃẽː]
- Rounding unrounded vowels before [l] (which may have been elided by now),
e.g. schneller → schnöller [ˈʃnœlɐ], vielleicht → vülleicht [fʏˈlæːçt], wild → wüüd [vyːd̥]
In the realm of grammar, one does not find many differences with other Bavarian dialects. The following are typical:
- avoidance of the genitive case
- use of the preposition ohne (without) with the dative case instead of the accusative
- The replacement of "ihn" or "ihm" with "eam", for instance: "Hast du ihn gesehen?" ("Have you seen him?") would be in Viennese "Host eam gsehn?"
- The replacement of "wir" with "mia".
- The avoidance of the personal pronouns in the second person singular, for instance "Bist deppert?" ("Are you a fool?") instead of High German "Bist du blöd?"
Viennese dialect is most distinct in its vocabulary.
Influences on the vocabulary
The Viennese vocabulary displays particular characteristics. Viennese retains many Middle High German and sometimes even Old High German roots. Furthermore, it integrated many expressions from other languages, particularly from other parts of the former Habsburg Monarchy, as Vienna served as a melting pot for its constituent populations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The transcription of Viennese has not been standardised. Thus, the rendering of pronunciation here is incomplete:
- from Old High German:
- Zähnd (Standard German Zähne, English teeth, from zand)
- Hemad (Hemd, = English shirt, from hemidi)
- from Middle High German:
- Greißler (=small grocer, from griuzel - diminutive of Gruz =grain)
- Baaz (=slimy mass, from batzen=being sticky)
- si ohgfrettn (=to struggle, from vretten)
- from Hebrew and Yiddish:
- Masl (=luck, from masol)
- Hawara (=friend, companion, from chaver)
- Gannef (=crook, from ganav)
- Beisl (=bar, pub, from bajser)
- from Czech:
- Motschga (=unappetizing mush, from močka=residue in a pipe or a piss or from omáčka=Sauce, Soup)
- Pfrnak (=(big) nose, from frňák)
- Lepschi (Auf Lepschi gehen = to go out or to amuse oneself, from lepší=better)
- from Hungarian:
- Maschekseitn (=the other side, from a másik)
- Gattihosn (=long underpants, from gatya = trousers)
- from Italian:
- Gspusi (=girlfriend, from sposa)
- Gstanzl (=Stanza of a humorous song, from stanza)
- Gusta (=appetite for something, from gusto)
- from French:
- Trottoa (=sidewalk, from trottoir)
- Lawua (=washbowl, from lavoir)
- Loschie (from logis)
- from Arabic:
- Hadscha (=a long path, from Hajj)
In Viennese, one increasingly finds the following pragmatics peculiarities:
- Frequently occurring ironic speech which is marked neither through intonation nor through gestures. This is – especially for foreigners – a source of misunderstandings.
- “Opposite exaggeration,” the recognizable diminutive suffixes such as -l or -erl (as in Kaffeetscherl or Plauscherl).
In more recent times Viennese has become closer to Standard German; this has developed into a kind of Standard German spoken with a typical Viennese accent (for example, the original Viennese Wos host’n fir a Notn gschriebn? becomes modern Was hast’n für eine Note gschriebn?). The typical Viennese monophthongization, through which the dialect differentiates itself from the neighboring dialects, remains, but mostly in the form of a developing “Pseudo-Standard German” that many foreigners, particularly from other states, feel is ugly. For example: Waaaßt, wos mir heut in der Schule für än gråååsliches Fläääsch kriegt ham? (Standard German Weißt du, was für ein widerliches Fleisch wir heute in der Schule vorgesetzt bekamen?) The monopthongized Diphthongs, like ei ~ äää or au ~ ååå[clarification needed], are particularly stressed and lengthened.
The reason for the convergence of the typical Viennese Dialects, is the attitude, strengthened by the media, that Urwienerisch is to be considered something of the Proletariat. With the rising standard of living the original Viennese can further converge, as it is considered a sign of low-class origins, while the unique Viennese words (such as Zwutschgerl) however generally stay in use.
Viennese dialects have always been influenced by foreign languages, particularly due to immigration. In the past 40 years immigrants mostly stemmed from the former Yugoslavia, Turkey and most recently (East) Germany but modern day immigration has changed which in turn affected and created new varieties of modern day Viennese. An ongoing process, particularly in areas with a high percentage of first and second generation immigrants new loanwords find their ways into Viennese and so do changes in pronunciation.
- Viennese for Americans - A Phrase Book (A humorous guide to speaking Viennese; no translations into High German)
- Radio Wien (Live broadcasting from Vienna mostly in Viennese dialect)